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EWA Alumni: Frederick Maitland

EWA Alumni: Frederick Maitland

We’re hugely proud of our alumni, many of whom go on to make a splash in the whisky world. After taking our Diploma in Single Malt Whisky in 2017, Frederick Maitland established East Coast Whisky, a whisky experiences and promotions company. We caught up with him to find out more…

When did you first get into whisky?

It started with bourbon as I lived in America in the early 2000s. But my first foray into Scotch Whisky was at my wedding. Somebody passed me a large tumbler as part of the celebrations, and I really didn’t look back from there. I had an interest in wine and other spirits beforehand, but the more I looked into whisky the more I became fascinated by the history, the production and obviously the taste of the end product. I was also quite drawn to the collection side of things. Working in the music industry in the past I collected a lot of music and books, so the thought of collecting whisky came quite naturally to me, something I enjoy building to this day with some old and rare bottlings forming part of my portfolio.

What attracted you to the Diploma in Single Malt Whisky?

I wanted to take my knowledge to the next level. I found the EWA’s courses online and thought the Diploma fitted my needs perfectly, covering a wide range of topics on the product and the industry in a structured way, with the added benefit of a certified qualification at the end of it.

Which aspects did you find most fascinating about the Diploma?

Aside from the course content Vic Cameron, our tutor, delivered the course in a very engaging and personable way, complementing the facts with insights from his own experience in industry. Being from a science background I particularly enjoyed the germination process (does that make me sound like a massive whisky geek?).

I also loved the history; small details like the first Coffey still being located near where I grew up on Burnt Island and running around the grain fields when I was a wee boy was a quite touching realisation. Meeting other whisky enthusiasts and professionals on the course was also a real bonus, as was having to taste whisky in the middle of an exam – not for the feint hearted!

How did the Diploma help prepare you to set up East Coast Whisky?

After the course, I started to think about my logical next step. For me it was hosting whisky tastings, so I started building relationships with people and venues in East Lothian and Edinburgh. The knowledge I had from the course gave me the confidence to approach them, to hold informed tastings and to answer a range of questions about whisky and where it comes from.

Without the Diploma, I wouldn’t have felt as prepared – having that foundation gave me a platform to build upon as my business grows, as well as a degree of credibility in quite a busy market.

What’s been the highlight of your time running ECW so far?

One of the ideas I had for ECW was about community – creating quality, inclusive experiences with people who come to Edinburgh from all over the world. Bringing them together for our whisky and food pairings has been a joy. The richness of these events through meeting people, storytelling and sharing whiskies from my collection that they’ve never been able to try before gives me a great deal of satisfaction. We’ve also been able to support a range of charities through our events which is hugely gratifying.

Aside from the events, understanding that there is a relationship between whisky, people and photography in this age of social media has been a real eyeopener for me. The number of amazing people I’ve met through Instagram has introduced me to a community that I didn’t know existed before. Some travel from quite far away just to come to our events and these are relationships that have evolved into something much more than just a picture of a bottle of whisky on their phone.

What’s next for you and ECW?

Independent bottling. We’re starting off with two very limited releases of a Mortlach and an Ardbeg – two really great whiskies. We’re going to create some distinctly different labels for the first series, inspired by the Style of Steampunk and the extravagance of the old Italian independent bottling.

Between my bottlings and developing the events I’ll be busy, but I’m always looking at possible partnerships with distilleries for the future. I probably won’t go into distilling, but I don’t mind being a ‘middle man’ and getting people excited about whiskies, so if I can promote that relationship between artistry and taste via our own bottlings then that can only be a good thing.

Whisky wisdom: quick fire questions

What was the first whisky you tasted?
A Talisker 10 or a Laphroaig 10 (I can’t remember which…)

What’s been the best whisky you’ve tasted?
Either an old Brora I tasted at Brora (‘peak whisky experience’) or a 1940s Glen Grant.

Who is your ‘whisky hero’?
John, the old venue manager at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Queen Street. He helped me out a lot by introducing me to a whole world of new whisky flavours.

What person, dead or alive, would you most like to conduct a whisky tasting for?
Iain M. Banks. I’ve read his whisky book and met him at readings in the past. I’m pretty sure that if he was still alive today, I’d have met him at a tasting and helped him find his perfect dram…

Favourite distillery you have visited?
Brora / Clynelish, such a beautiful place for a distillery. Balblair, Kilchoman, both great experiences. Talisker because, well, it’s Talisker. And then Aberfeldy, one of the last days out I ever had with my dad, so a very special memory that reminds me of him.

Ultimate bottling for your collection?
In terms of what I’ll never obtain, something from the old Stromness distillery on Orkney. Aspirationally, BenRiach 1976, Clynelish 12 year old from 1965, and a GlenDronach 1972.

What is your favourite non-whisky drink?
Mezcals and cognac.

Favourite way to mix whisky?
With friends.

Favourite whisky and food pairing?
Peaty whisky and scallops. There’s a great scallop hack just up the road from Talisker. Unbeatable.

East Coast Whisky’s mission is to share with you what whisky is out there, the experiences and stories it brings, and the people it meets along its way.

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